The current emphasis of core training of this genre involves postural stabilization in isolated positions through very simplistic and highly specific (to the activity or injury) therapeutic exercise. However, this doesn’t address how an ineffective inner unit recruitment and firing sequence affects the performance of athletic and vocational tasks.
Exercises are useful for training the inner unit because they teach the following: + The correct breathing patterns in yoga allow optimal recruitment of the core during dynamic movement.
+ The rotation and compression in yoga encourage inner unit recruitment while relieving unnecessary tension in the outer unit structures. Core activation in yoga addresses movement outside of the contexts of traditional therapeutic exercise for postural alignment to alleviate lower back pain. Yoga basically involves using the breath to relax into challenging physical conditions.
If we incrementally sophisticate from asana to vinyasa to prasara (and back to asana), we can prevent and/or release unnecessary outer unit muscle tension while maintaining effective inner unit tension to safely stabilize the structure through the motion. This allows us to keep the correct, natural firing sequence of inner to outer.
Chek offered the metaphor of a pirate ship to describe the inner outer unit synergy. He compares the inner unit to the cables directly holding the mast upright and the outer unit to the cables mounted to the ends of the ship. The result is a tensegrity structure – a sere of continuous tensions pulling in, with the compressive struts of the mast pushing out. Without correct inner unit stabilization, the mast will buckle under the strain of wild winds filling the sails.
Let’s discuss the most important point in this sailboat metaphor: the wind in the sails, or our breath. Many times we condition breathing techniques that do not sync up with structural stabilization and movement efficiency. We actually defeat core stabilization by breathing in a way that doesn’t sync with the architecture of our structure and movement. Fortunately, asana teaches us how to use our breath to balance strength and surrender in a pose; and vinyasa teaches us how to resync our breath in motion between poses.
Breathing should derive from structural compression/expansion and inner unit activationbasically, exhalation on compression and activation, inhalation on expansion and deactivation. When this process is done correctly, the total performance output is greater than any of the sum of its parts due to the synergistic effect of natural integration of breathing, movement, and structure.
Now, although this is the proper firing sequence, in challenging conditions we cannot just adopt this ability to breathe in flow. We must first discipline our breath to counter condition prior dysfunctional breathing patterns that have been destabilizing our core. We discuss this in the next section.
Chek gives an exercise example of the musculoskeletal dynamics of inner outer unit synergy: “Almost in synchrony with the thought, ‘pick up the weights from the floor, the brain activates the inner unit, contracting the multifidus and drawing in the transversus abdominis. This tightens the thoraco lumbar fascia in a weight bel like fashion. Just as this is happening, there is simultaneous activation of the diaphragm above and the pelvic floor below. The effect is to encapsulate the internal organs as they are compressed by the transversus abdominis. This process creates both stiffness of the trunk and stabilizes the joints of the pelvis, spine and rib cage, allowing effective force transfer from the leg musculature, trunk and large prime movers of the back and arms to the dumbbells.” (“The Inner Unit: A New Frontier In Abdominal Training.”)
go These breathing patterns would naturally occur if not inhibited by overuse of ineffective breathing instruction, performance anxiety, trauma, and tension. Inner unit recruitment and firing sequence produce powerful breathing patterns if we release fear reactivity and allow natural breathing to occur.